While Alabama’s population is 27 percent Black, just one of the state’s seven districts is majority-Black. In a 5-4 decision in June, the Supreme Court affirmed a three-judge panel’s ruling that Alabama’s current map likely violates the Voting Rights Act by taking away from the voice of Black voters. The group of voters who sued and won before the Supreme Court proposed a second district where Black residents are 50.5 percent of the population, according to The Associated Press.
Facing down a Friday deadline, Republican state lawmakers proposed a congressional map Monday that would increase the percentage of Black voters in the 2nd Congressional District from around 30 percent to nearly 42.5 percent, still below the court’s prescribed level. The proposal was approved by the Permanent Legislative Committee in a party-line 14-6 vote and was introduced to other lawmakers Monday afternoon in a special session.
To review, a lower court had mandated the creation of a second majority-Black congressional district as the easiest way to alleviate what the court found was a deliberate dilution of the power of Alabama’s minority voters. (The lower court did leave just enough of a loophole for mischief. It required a new CD “or something like it.”) It was that ruling that the Supreme Court upheld in June as jaws dropped all over Washington. It appears that the Alabama legislature is attempting to squeeze through that loophole again. From Politico:
Republicans, long resistant to creating a second Democratic-leaning district, proposed a map that would increase the percentage of Black voters in the 2nd Congressional District from about 30% to nearly 42.5%, wagering that would satisfy the court — or that the state will prevail in a second round of appeals. House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle, who serves as co-chairman of the state redistricting committee, said the numbers are sufficient to provide an opportunity for an African American candidate to get elected. He said the plan satisfies the court’s instruction to give Black voters a greater opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. “We took in consideration what the court asked us to do which was to provide an opportunity district that complied with Section 2 (of the Voting Rights Act,)” Pringle said.
By producing a new map that still diluted the Black vote? I do not think “complied” is a word you understand.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat from Mobile, said the court was clear that the state should create a second majority-Black district or something close to it. “Forty-two percent is not close to 50. In my opinion 48, 49 is close to 50,” Figures said after the meeting. Figures had urged colleagues to adopt a proposal by the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that would make the 2nd District 50% Black.
Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa, said he also doesn’t think the GOP proposal would satisfy the court’s directive. He said Republican lawmakers pushed through their proposal without a public hearing or producing a voter analysis of how the district will perform — if it is a red, blue or swing district. Pringle said that information will be available Tuesday. “The map that we adopted, nobody had any input on. There was no public input on it, not subject to a public hearing and now it’s going to be the map of choice,” England said.
Empowered Republican state governments are pushing the limits of the constitutional order, and the rights and sovereign prerogatives of their fellow states, in dozens of different ways right now, and they don’t seem to give a damn that they’re playing with dynamite that’s already detonated once in the history of the republic with horrific results to, among other places, Alabama.
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. He lives near Boston and has three children.